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Athens, Georgia

The Athens Double Barreled Cannon

After just one epic test blast, this literal loose cannon proved too explosive for combat. 

Designed by John Gilleland in 1863, the double-barreled cannon was intended to fire two cannonballs attached by a chain so as to create a wider path of destruction. 

While fantastic in theory, this Confederate experiment never saw use in combat for highly practical reasons. The effectiveness of the weapon relied on being able to fire both barrels simultaneously, which was beyond the scope of available technology at the time.

As an observer of the lone test of Gilleland’s cannon recounted, ”[The chain shot] had a kind of circular motion, plowed up an acre of ground, tore up a cornfield, and mowed down saplings. The chain broke, the two balls going in opposite directions; one of the balls killed a cow in a distant field, while the other knocked down the chimney from a log cabin.”

Rather than let the too-loose cannon languish in the realm of forgotten dreams, it was presented to the City of Athens as a gift, where it remains parked in front of city hall for all to admire to this day. Local lore suggests it was and remains pointed to the north as a warning against northern aggression.

Know Before You Go

The cannon sits adjacent to the Athens-Clarke County City Hall at the corner of College Ave. and East Hancock Ave.